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    What’s up with the smelly seaweed washing up on the seashores of Florida?

    On this collection, Lonely Planet’s group of writers and editors solutions your journey issues and gives suggestions and hacks that can assist you plan a hassle-free journey. We known as on Lonely Planet author Jackie Gutierrez-Jones – a born-and-bred South Florida native and Caribbean professional – to share her ideas and recommendation on maximizing your seashore trip when nature has…different plans.  

    Query: I’ve been listening to some information about smelly seaweed ruining seashores in Florida and the Caribbean. What’s happening, and the way may it influence my journey plans?

    Jackie Gutierrez-Jones: I’ve additionally seen the completely not-anxiety-inducing headlines about flesh-eating micro organism proliferating in a gargantuan seaweed blob heading straight to Florida and Caribbean coasts.

    So let’s all take a breath, lets? (However not too deep a breath, since it’d scent like rotten eggs – extra on that beneath). 

    These headlines are referring to a 5000-mile-long mass of sargassum that began blooming to a record-breaking dimension again in March. It’s been slowly floating alongside the Atlantic Ocean, threatening to clog up the shores of jap Florida and the Caribbean this summer season. 

    Clumps of sargassum seaweed on the beach in Miami, Florida, USA
    When clumps of sargassum seaweed wash ashore, they begin decomposing – resulting in disagreeable odors © Jeffrey Greenberg / Common Photographs Group through Getty Photographs

    So, what precisely is sargassum?

    It’s actually simply seaweed. Particularly, a big brown seaweed that bobs round in clumps and patches on the ocean’s floor till it washes up on the shore. Regardless of all these headlines, sargassum truly performs an vital function within the ocean’s ecosystem. It serves as a habitat and meals supply for numerous animals, together with fish, turtles, birds, crabs and shrimp. It additionally serves as a nursery for child mahi mahi and amberjacks.

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    Sargassum has been an everyday characteristic of Florida seashores for fairly a while. (As a child in Miami, I used to make use of it so as to add some considerate design touches to my sand castles.) 

    The issue is that when it will get to shore, it begins to decompose. And when it decomposes, the decaying vegetation produces hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, creating an odor similar to…rotten eggs. This will have a doubtlessly critical influence on the well being of susceptible residents and guests, particularly people with bronchial asthma or different respiratory circumstances. 

    However it’s not simply the scent that has folks up in arms. Marine biologists from Florida Atlantic College discovered that the plenty of decomposing algae include excessive ranges of vibrio, a extremely salt-tolerant micro organism that may doubtlessly trigger critical sickness in people. Ocean air pollution has performed a job within the unfold of vibrio, because the micro organism aggressively seeks out and sticks to plastic floating within the water. 

    A man on a stand-up paddleboard and two kayakers on the Silver River, Marion County, Florida
    If the seashore in Florida is simply too seaweed-clogged to get pleasure from, contemplate cooling down at a freshwater spot like Silver Springs State Park © Michael Warren / Getty Photographs

    What ought to I do about my trip? Is it nonetheless protected to move right down to Florida or the Caribbean?

    Whereas all this information may sound…lower than preferrred, there’s no want cancel your trip plans. 

    In early June, scientists found that the Nice Atlantic Sargassum Belt (GASB) scenario took a extremely uncommon flip of occasions: its mass truly decreased by 15%, one thing that hasn’t occurred within the historical past of the GASB (going again to 2011). Even higher information? The mass is predicted to shrink significantly all through the summer season, with the outlook for July and August trying a lot much less clogged.

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    Let’s face it: there’ll most likely be above-average quantities of seaweed on the seashore this 12 months. Nonetheless, Florida and Caribbean seashores are nonetheless completely gorgeous and provide tons to do throughout the summer season. As an alternative of bypassing what’s certain to be an incredible seashore trip, take some sensible precautions earlier than you go and put together to shift plans if crucial. Listed here are a couple of suggestions:

    • Wish to know the way a lot sargassum you’ll be able to anticipate at your vacation spot? Try the webcams of well-liked seashores. 
    • When you discover huge clumps of seaweed on the shore, attempt to keep away from dealing with them or stepping on them barefoot, because the tiny creatures that stay in sargassum might irritate the pores and skin.
    • If there occurs to be a very heavy inflow of sargassum in your space, you’ll discover no scarcity of swimming pools, water parks, splash pads and different our bodies of water that can assist you cool off. Make a day journey to a close-by spring or spend a day mountaineering, canyoning or caving via waterfalls and cenotes. 


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